UK universities have received a record number of applications from China, which is helping to compensate financially for the drop in EU students, because of Brexit. EU applications fell 43% to 28,400 while from China the number is 28,490, more than double in four years, according to UK universities admission service, UCAS.
The rule changes since Brexit mean EU students must pay higher fees at UK universities, which are higher than the typical £9,250, the maximum charged at English universities for domestic tuition. UCAS said only Northern Ireland which has kept fees for EU students unchanged, has experienced an increase in those numbers.
Although the decline in EU applications is described as disappointing but not surprising, the diversity of experience in campus could be at risk unless more EU students are attracted, argues Ms Stephanie Harris, head of a UK universities lobby.
It is estimated that foreign students contributed some £22.6 billion to the UK economy in 2015/16, and the government wants the figure to rise to £35 billion a year by 2030. However there are also questions whether UK universities are not becoming too reliant on students from China. Likewise there are fears of defense technology ending up in China.
Universities' lobbies indicate that the operating model of a British university is to take a loss on almost everything, except international students who provide the revenue to fund university research, which at the same time makes them so attractive.